We can’t stop now, Arizona. We need to continue the conversation about repealing the disastrous health care system called the Affordable Care Act (ACA), aka Obamacare. While dialogue about a bipartisan effort to draft a new bill may be the feel-good news of the moment, it must be known that this kind of effort will end up propping up the current law and further entrench the current failing system of Medicaid.
But we can’t keep stalling. If the congressional GOP truly wants repeal, as they’ve repeatedly championed, their first step is to show strength in numbers and be a majority that can take action for families that are desperate for change. While not perfect – incremental changes rarely are – the Better Care Reconciliation Act (BCRA) would have taken us leaps toward that goal by freeing Americans from the ACA’s onerous mandates and taxes.
As expected, the health care and insurance lobbies had a field day of grave consequences. What was not expected was the failure of our senators to weigh faulty predictions against the actual harms the law is causing Americans today!
Betrayed by the promises of lower premiums and the ability to keep their doctors, families now have insufferably narrow networks, pay multiple times more for less care and many have been forced into exchanges where there are few, if any, carriers. Individuals like John in north Phoenix paid $422 monthly in 2016 for a family bronze plan that increased to $1,038 this year. Kim, a business owner in Casa Grande, had to close an office location, lay off 20 employees and close 10 positions. With talk of millions potentially “losing coverage” under repeal scenarios, these families are paying a high price for inaction every day. These are not anecdotal cases. Since 2010, Arizona has seen a 45 percent net reduction in employer insurance offered by small businesses, according to data from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality. Importantly, the Senate bill would also have taken the small but critical first step of slowing the growth of Medicaid, the expansion of which is a central component of Obamacare. Medicaid would continue to grow about 2 percent per year, but at least we’d be acknowledging that entitlement spending is driving our debt crisis and making efforts to address it. Incredibly, one in four Arizonans is signed up for the Arizona Health Cost Care Containment System (AHCCCS) and is growing by double digits annually. And for all its cost efficiencies, AHCCCS needs its own reforms to ensure that the vulnerable seriously mentally ill, children in foster care and developmentally disabled individuals don’t fall through the cracks. Other negative consequences remind us that the ACA is an incoherent law that was designed to fail and lead to the Left’s ultimate goal – single payer. It leaves physicians under-reimbursed and over-worked with bureaucratic paperwork. The result? Almost half plan to quit, change job positions or reduce hours, according to the 2016 Survey of America’s Physicians.
Arizona is ready to rid itself of the burdens of the ACA. Without its constraints, we are poised to enable a real marketplace of health care options for families – where innovation, competition and transparent prices for health care services could come together to stem health care costs. Broader use of medical savings accounts, health care sharing and direct care models, along with bold innovations we have yet to imagine, would allow individuals and their doctors to drive their health care decisions for the first time in a generation – rather than third-party bureaucrats. Americans deserve to know if the congressional GOP is committed to getting the federal government out of their health care decisions, as they have espoused. If so, one thing is for sure – it will demand the herculean effort of listening to the American people – not the health care industry and insurers.
— Sen. Nancy Barto, R-Phoenix, is chair of the Senate Health and Human Services Committee
The views expressed in guest commentaries are those of the author and are not the views of the Arizona Capitol Times.